‘This is not the happiest time of my life’: N.B. seniors separated after 7 decades together
Herbert and Audrey Goodine have spent 73 years together — 69 of those as a married couple.
For the last three and a half years, they’ve lived together at the Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, N.B.
But after a recent assessment of Herbert’s condition, officials decided his dementia had progressed to a point where he needs a higher level of care and the home could no longer accommodate him. Their daughter, Dianne Phillips, says she was informed last Friday her father would have to move.
By Monday, Herbert was in a van on his way to another home 45 minutes away.
“For them to pull him out the week before Christmas was not right,” Phillips said. “It’s mentally and emotionally hard on them. To me, it’s senior abuse.”
The couple, who up until now still shared a room and bed, kissed goodbye on Monday morning before Herbert left. Their daughter snapped a photo of Audrey watching from the home’s window as her husband was driven away.
“Christmas is a time where everybody enjoys themselves but this is not the happiest time of my life. If they had left me with my wife where I was, it would have been,” Herbert Goodine told Global News.
Jennifer Eagan, the owner and operator of Victoria Villa, says she cannot comment on specific cases due to privacy but stresses the home is a Level 2 facility.
She says a resident at Level 2 would need a little bit of supervision, while a resident who has progressed beyond that level would require more supervision.
“Once a resident is beyond our care, [the Department of Social Development] reassesses that resident to determine what level they are. At that point, I have to follow those rules and regulations set by the government. In fact, it’s against the law for me not to follow those rules,” Eagan said.
“It normally doesn’t take very long because once a resident is beyond our care, we’re not equipped to look after them so it becomes a big safety concern for that resident. So any resident reassessed at a higher level, usually it’s within a day or two, end up moving on to somewhere else.”
In response, the Department of Social Development told Global News it “takes the concerns of people who have loved ones living in a special care home very seriously and works with them to ensure there are appropriate options available to enable residents to receive the care they require and deserve.”
Phillips says the family understands her father may need a higher level of care, but says his condition is only in its early stages and that they could have transitioned him out of the home in a smoother way.
In addition, her family was initially offered spots in homes up to three hours away. They eventually settled on Tobique Valley Manor in Plaster Rock, and Herbert was moved on Monday despite her daughter’s appeal for an extension of the decision.
“I don’t have a problem with higher level of care. I had a problem with how it was rolled out,” she said. “Why could this not have waited until after Christmas?”
Herbert says it’s been difficult moving from a group setting to a private room. He says the last 69 years have been the “best” and it’s all because of his wife, who he fell in love with the moment he saw her.
“You’d laugh if you knew how I met her. I still laugh about it myself,” he said with a chuckle. “I was out of my house — of my flat — and I looked through the crack in the wall and I seen her. And I never forget it.”
He hopes to see her again soon.
The couple will reunite for Christmas at their daughter’s home in Fredericton. However, visits after that will be sparse.
“I’m going to get a phone hooked up. I want them to have communication,” she said.
Phillips has reached out to the Department of Social Development and is waiting to discuss her parents’ situation with them. The family says the ideal solution would be if both Herbert and Audrey could move into a home in Perth, where the couple has lived their whole lives.
With a file from Shelley Steeves
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